Self-harm refers to the different ways that people deliberately harm themselves. It might conjure up images of someone cutting themselves, but it can also include things like deliberate burning, scratching, hair pulling or taking an overdose. Sometimes people self-harm in secret and it might be a long time before they feel able to tell someone else about it.

People often think that the seriousness of the injury is a sign of how bad someone is feeling, but this isn’t true: a person who hurts themselves a bit can be feeling just as bad as a person who hurts themselves a lot.

Did you know?

In the UK at least one in every 15 young people has experience of self-injury. That is two young people in every classroom.

When we feel low or stressed out about stuff most of the time we are able to find a way to cope with how we’re feeling. If we haven’t found positive ways of coping we might use self-harm as a way of managing the feelings that are bottled up inside of us.

Some of the reasons for self harm that young people describe include:

To cope with overwhelming and painful feelings of sadness, despair and hopelessness.

To relieve difficult feelings or to provide a distraction from them.

To feel and gain a sense of control when they may feel no control over other areas of their life.

HARM/LESS from OTR also provides a group support setting for young people struggling with self-harm – info here.

The Resilience Lab has some tips for your self-care toolbox!

Get the basics right
We know it can be tempting to let all the simple stuff that helps go out the window, but eating right, getting some rest and getting some exercise will help improve your mood.

It can help to think of ways that you could be self-caring rather than self-harming. This doesn’t mean you have to stop self-harming straight away, but it gives you other options for things you can do when you feel the need to hurt yourself. What activities do you enjoy or make you feel good? Write a list and keep it somewhere you can find it when you need it.

Be a good friend to yourself
When you feel overwhelmed imagine how you would talk to a friend who felt the same way. What kind and calming things would you tell them? You can practice being a good friend to yourself by giving yourself the same kindness.

Information and support
Perhaps you’re not feeling ready to talk to friends and family about what you’re going through yet? There are some great websites and helplines where you can get support and information.

More info and support: and


You don’t have to cope on your own! When self-harming becomes a way of coping with stress, it is a sign that there are problems and worries in your life that need attention. You might need someone else to support you to think about what is upsetting you and how it can be managed.

You might like to stop self harming but find it scary to think about, especially if you’re not sure how else you will cope with what is happening in your life. Stopping can be a gradual process – you don’t have to stop immediately.

It can be a big step to talk to someone else about it if you’ve always kept it secret in the past, but sharing your worries with someone you trust can make everything feel more manageable in the long run.

Get in touch!

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